The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Friday, March 8, 2013

In the Duh, Doy and Der Department

Here it is, if you didn't catch it. Another scoop from the Old Gray Lady. I promise not to give away the big story...oh, I can't help it, this one is so fresh and outrageous. Apparently...white people are moving to once predominantly black neighborhoods. Not just moving there for a little while either. They seem to be moving and staying. Even raising families and opening businesses.

(I did get a kick out of the line in the piece about the girl who moved to Bushwick in 2001 to an apartment for $950 a month, heard gunshots and got hit by a car, moved a couple stops back on the L to Williamsburg swearing never to go back to Bushwick, but then moved back to Bushwick 10 years later and bought a $370,000 apartment four blocks from the original flat. I mean, is that the story of NYC real estate in a run-on sentence or what?)

There was a bit or two of actual "Q at Parkside" interest in there, about the coming building at  626 Flatbush, a proposed complex that took some heat from commenters last time I posted about it here. You can read this excerpt from Michelle Higgins' piece if you're feeling link-a-phobic:
Developers have taken note. Hudson Companies, which invested early in places like the meatpacking district and Gowanus, plans to begin construction in late summer on a 23-story, 254-unit rental building at 626 Flatbush. “We sort of gravitate toward neighborhoods where the land is more affordable than prime neighborhoods,” said David Kramer, a Hudson principal, “but that still have so much going for them — where it’s easy access to the subway, retail that’s good and getting better, and a safe environment.”
Mr. Kramer’s interest in the neighborhood was piqued after a college roommate bought a house in Lefferts Manor and told him what homes there were going for. “It occurred to me,” he said, “if you have a homeowner who is willing to pay that much in a landmarked district, it would be a compelling spot for a rental product that doesn’t exist in these transitional neighborhoods, with a doorman, concierge, views.” He says 626 will have all three, plus a fitness center, a screening room and roof-top garden plots. 
Fair enough. Perhaps more than anything I've read about the neighborhood to date, that's pure unadulterated Brownstonerization. Don't try to deny it; I will claim you supplied it. Can't imagine that 123 on the Park, the old Caledonian Hospital, will be much different. That's why I have to laugh when I read some of the comments bemoaning lack of amenities around here. It's only a matter of time. There will come a day, barring major economic or terrorist tragedies, when we might wax nostalgic for the goode olde days of balde koins, closeout heavens and internet coffee houses. The Q is a realist, but I'm not always thrilled to be. And dang if I didn't get old too. [Not to go all off-topic, but I remember when yesterday's bands sounded like today's bands. It's annoying. It's not like today's bands sound bad. They don't. They still sound good. I'm not saying they sound bad, honest. I'm just saying they sound like a band that I used to like when I was your age called something else, which makes you think that I'm old, which I am. Which is why guys my age usually end up getting into jazz. Problem is, I don't really like jazz. That's why I work where I work I guess. A place where it doesn't matter how old you get, they don't make fun of you for liking the music you like. And you can talk to someone a third your age about what you like about it and not feel creepy. Is THAT the difference between art and pop? Not feeling creepy?]

Let me also dissect that word "prime" used in the excerpt as well. Apparently, Mr. Kramer does not consider this neighborhood yet prime, a word which can be defined many ways, but let's assume he's not referring to the mathematical term meaning a number that can only be divided by itself and one. Mr. Kramer means that while the area has some of the potential to be every bit as great as a Park Slope, a Cobble Hill, a Murray Hill or a Turtle Bay, it just needs a few doormen and roof-top garden plots to get it there. Thankfully, Mr. Kramer and other like-minded philanthropists are considering pooling their resources to take us to the promised land.

But now let me get serious for a second. Ms. Higgins is clearly an excellent writer and a well-researched one at that. But there's a moment in this article when I nearly dropped my, er, phone. Because I was reading it on Which is a weird things to say, when you're, old. Anyways, I do have to say I take issue with a paragraph about Crown Heights that I find pretty lazy, or maybe just insensitive or indicative of the way real estate becomes a shallow stand-in for history and race-relations. When I moved to Brooklyn in 1988, I moved to a place that was both deeply segregated and yet, paradoxically, fiercely liberal, union, staunchly Catholic, way Jewish, Muslim, and every other faith, angry, ueber gesticulating, anti-Manhattan, suspicious of outsiders, suspicious of money, suspicious of developers...I mean it was so not what New Williamsburg is today. So this article that is basically about how the high price of housing and how it's sent some residents seeking new central Brooklyn neighborhood options, sets up this paragraph about Crown Heights:

Buyers will find an area still very much in transition away from a turbulent past. In August 1991, to take a notable example, a Hasidic man in Crown Heights lost control of his car and killed a black child, sparking three days of riots that saddled the neighborhood with a reputation not easily shaken off. Community relations have vastly improved since then, thanks in part to residents’ efforts. 
 I mean, "in part?" How about "thanks to the extraordinary power of the human desire to put aside ancient tribal resentments, fears and hatreds in order to love, live and learn from each other to build a better community and world so that their children might one day be brother and sister or even husband and wife and move the species towards a greater humanity, one where inalienable rights to faith, health and dignity might blah, blah, blah and blah blah, with blah blah and blah blah to blah????"

G'night everyone. May we never riot again, unless it's for a really, really good cause.


Bob Marvin said...

"Apparently...white people are moving to once predominantly black neighborhoods. Not just moving there for a little while either. They seem to be moving and staying. Even raising families and opening businesses" You don't say Tim; next you'll be telling us that they're starting to renovate those old brownstones that no body wants in Brooklyn Heights :-)

Actually, I don't think there was more than a couple of years since the middle of the last century when white people, along with people of every other color, weren't moving to our neighborhood. Block-busting, which panicked many white people to flee in the late '50s and early '60s had [thankfully, and perhaps uniquely] failed here by the early '60s, leaving a sizable white population, albeit a minority. New, younger white people, again along with people of every shade, but similar demographics, began moving here, as part of the "brownstone revival", by the mid '60s, or maybe earlier. I was a fairly late part of that process when I "discovered" [hate that colonialist term] this neighborhood at the June 1974 PLG house tour and closed on my house four months later. Of course PLG [excuse me, LEFFERTS] has always been atypical.

diak said...

Re Crown Heights, and admittedly this is from a PLG resident so just the view of an outsider looking up the hill: I don't see a whole lot of "community relations" going on. There may be a committee here and there with both West Indian and Hasidic members addressing a specific issue, but by and large I see two very separate and distinct communities who have tacitly agreed to share the streets and sidewalks but really very little else.
Separate schools, separate stores, separate worlds.

And re 626 Flatbush: the article suggests that the project as described is a fait accompli. I thought it was still "subject to review." Did I miss an update?
Anyone know the actual current status?

Bob Marvin said...

"by and large I see two very separate and distinct communities [in Crown Heights] who have tacitly agreed to share the streets and sidewalks but really very little else.
Separate schools, separate stores, separate worlds"

Isn't that enough for Crown Heights, given the desire of the Lubavitcher community to live apart from the rest of the world? Peaceful coexistence is all one might hope for.

ElizabethC said...

I'm still shocked that putting up a bicycle rack caused such a kerfluffle. I was looking at Crown Heights but ended up on Woodruff instead: so glad.

PS: is it me, or have the "prove you aren't a robot" phrases gotten harder??

Peter said...

re: 626 Flatbush, the only "review" it's going through is a zoning review in which the Buildings Dept. will confirm that the plans conform with the zoning code. Unless they are looking for public financing--and I don't think they are--there isn't any other review. As long as the building complies with the zoning code, they have a right to build 23 stories, or whatever it is.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Bob and Diak: Sharing space IS what it means to be good neighbors. Not everyone gets invited in for Passover. I have great conversations with folks ON the sidewalk and at the community board meetings and I consider that to be the very point. And I look forward to those conversation growing into friendships. Some have already become such.

Let me also say that liberal arts grads, in particular the young recent arrivals (notice I didn't say hipster - don't like the word, never did) tend to hang with their own kind, shop and eat with their own kind just as much as the orthodox Jews. Sure the frum women won't shake your hand, so don't offer yours and you'll be cool. I think there are a lot of assumptions going on here.

By the way, I'm told by my Lubavitcher coach, my coworker Sruly, that that's a world of difference between the Lubavitchers around whom we live and the Satmars of Williamsburg, who tend to be more insular.

Bob Marvin said...

"I'm told...that that's a world of difference between the Lubavitchers around whom we live and the Satmars of Williamsburg, who tend to be more insular".

That's true; the Satmars, and most other Chasidim, ignore secular Jews, like me--the Lubavitchers try to proselytize us, something I find VERY annoying and objectionable.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Bob: I think you're taking it too personally. On holidays they proselytize to anyone who even LOOKS jewish. I get it all the time but just laugh it off. When they say "excuse me, are you Jewish" I say, "no, are you?" Gets 'em every time.

In my mind it's not much different than someone with firmly held beliefs, say a hardcore rightwinger, who tries to win your vote. They're an American, you're an American, and you both wish you could win the other over, but it just ain't gonna happen. And still you have to live with each other. As long as it doesn't come to blows, can't you at give it a try every now and then? Changing the other's mind?

You're right if they tried to do it every day or even every week it would get pretty damn tiresome.

Bob Marvin said...

Not just holidays Tim. I find them as annoying as the Christian evangelicals who ring my door bell, wanting to read Bible prophesy, or other superstitious foolishness to me. At least, in recent years, I've forced myself to smile and politely decline, instead of telling them what they can do with their nonsense.

babs said...

I get asked that all the time around the holidays too, and it's never bothered me - but I'm not Jewish. I do get really annoyed by the subway preachers going about Jesus, however. I find them a lot more invasive.

And everything you're saying about Satmar vs. Lubovitcher is true, Q, and more.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this happened yesterday

bialy said...

Jews don't proselytize.

When Orthodox Jews ask if you're Jewish, the question isn't an opening to a spiel about converting. They're not looking for new members of the tribe.

They're looking for existing members. Jews who might move further out on the religious scale. The primary target market? Reform Jews, or those who've lost touch.

The rest of the world? No way.

Clarkson, I'm sure your snappy response gets 'em every time because it doesn't occur to them you've been conditioned by a long line of proselytizing Christians determined to pull you in no matter what your beliefs may be.

So if you answer the question with "no, I'm not Jewish," the conversion will end right there.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oh, Bialy, do I really have to explain this one? Oh alright, but it pains me.

When they ask "are you Jewish?" and I say "no, are you?" two things happen that work in my favor: a) I don't get the annoying spiel and b) since it's painfully obvious by their dress that they're Jewish it's really, really funny. And usually, to them to, after a couple of beats.

See? It works whether you're Jewish or not! It's ecunemicalemical!

Look, my point here is that these conversion experiences are really effing rare, and if you have the right attitude about them they're kind of interesting, a sort of game almost. And you always have the option of saying "not interested" and walking away. I mean, what are we so afraid of? Unless the person is holding a gun to our head it's just another weird human interaction. Usually the "converter" is more scared than we are. I actually think what we're REALLY scared of is death, but that's a story for a different post...

Bob Marvin said...


Perhaps I misused the word "proselytize", but, semantics aside, I think the Lubavitchers are doing the functional equivalent of that term when they approach secular Jews, like me, who have no use for any kind of religious observance.

Anonymous said...

I thought the article was about real estate in our neighborhood....

bialy said...

Clarkson, you're explanation seems to confirm the notion that you believe you're being asked to convert.

As for your idea that everyone gets a chuckle out of your "no, are you?" response, hmmm, probably not.

Your response is a mild rebuke comprising an answer and a rhetorical question. Some kind of inverted rhetorical question that shows your indignation over being asked something that has an answer you believe is in plain sight.

Conversions? Getting people to jump from one faith to another? Happens every day.

There's a Mormon church near me and pretty much every day a few young Mormons, in their white shirts, blazers, dark slacks, carrying messenger bags and wearing smiles go out on the hunt. Everyone is fair game.

Jehovah's Witnesses? Doing their duty at every subway stop in Brooklyn and elsewhere, it seems. A quiet group, two or three holding up copies of The Watchtower.

Then there's the Nation of Islam guys, in their suits and bow-ties, peddling The Final Call at subway stations and some street corners. On the occasions that I offer to buy a copy, which makes them pause the way your response to the "Are you Jewish" question does, they have repeatedly tried to sell me editions that are months old.

It's true the essence of Farrakhan's message never varies, but still, I'd rather get the latest version of his rant to see what's currently eating him up. Seems he's still in mourning over the loss of his pal Khadaffy, and, as always, apoplectic about Israel.

bialy said...


With respect to the Lubavitchers, since you know what's coming, just walk on by.

As New Yorkers, we've developed that skill. How many times a day are NYers approached by strangers hoping to pull us into their world for a while? Panhandlers, people with clipboards seeking donations for Save the _____, people who hate fracking, people who love dogs. It's endless.

Bob Marvin said...

Quite true bialy; being approached by panhandlers, religious fanatics, and political wingnuts is just one of the many inescapable indignities of urban life. It's still an annoyance.

ElizabethC said...

"Khadaffy"=favorite spelling ever.

ElizabethC said...

And yes: not sure what makes our block so popular with the Latter Day Saints and the Witnesses, but our building buzzer system is broken and none of us want to have it repaired, simply because we have come to enjoy the relative calm on the weekend mornings. I mean it gets RIDICULOUS in the spring.

Anonymous said...

A trick my wife and I use: just tell them you're Buddhist. Monotheists never know what to do with that.

-Paul G.

The Snob said...

Have to weigh in about the Hasidim, even if this is a real estate post. While everyone has their own angle on it, MOST of the Lubavitch are interested in you performing particular acts of observance in order to tally up a great number of them and bring on the Messiah. It's a numbers thing. I'm rather alone in this, admittedly, but I look at their approach as asking help from a neighbor. Yes, some of them want you to come over for dinner, or make some kind of commitment, but in my experience (10 years in Crown Heights and environs), most guys just want you to get the mitzvah done and move on to the next. Some of the really young kids from Israel don't even speak English. I agree, this is somewhere on the annoyance level of Greenpeace campaign workers and panhandlers, but I don't take it personally.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

bialy: i guess i really have to spell it out for you. when an annoying person asks your ethnic or religious background, which is downright offensive in the first place, you are not obliged to tell the truth. if you want them to go away, just give the expedient answer. if you know, as i do, as you do, as bob marvin does, that the way to make them go way is to say "no," then say no. do you understand now? and if you want to throw it back in their face, why not ask "are you?" sheesh! it's no fun when you have to spell out the punch line!!!

Yes I understand that Jews do not actively try to convert, though plenty of people that I have met, usually through marriage, have converted to the faith, though I think most New Yorkers get that you cannot CREATE the ethnic part of jewishness.

Bob Marvin said...

"if you know, as i do, as you do, as bob marvin does, that the way to make them go way is to say "no,"

Easy enough to say Tim, but even a throughly secular Jew like me, who's been an atheist all his adult life, has a hard time responding "no" to "are you Jewish"?

Maybe in a perfect world, without anti-semitism....

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Wait. I thought we were talking about Lubovitcher's asking the question "are you Jewish," not neo-Nazis. I'm pretty sure most Lubovitchers aren't anti-semitic. Maybe anti-secular, or anti-reform, but not anti-semitic.

Look, I didn't want this to get all heavy. I was just trying to say there's a relatively easy way to give these guys the brush-off, if that's what you want to do, that's all. I just don't think it's a dangerous situation worthy of drama.

Bob Marvin said...

Of course they're not Tim; I just meant that it's hard for me to say I'm not Jewish to anyone, for any reason, even though I have no religious affiliation. I guess it's kind of complicated and since we're getting pretty far afield from the real estate matters that started this thread, maybe it's time for me to stop.